Pete Brown Makes Up Seven Strokes in Final Round
Leaps past 29 players in last two rounds to win the Andy Williams San Diego Open in sudden death
The PGA TOUR remains in Southern California for the Farmer’s Insurance Open which began as the San Diego Open and has been a mainstay on the winter swing through California since 1952 (Leo Diegal won two events with the same name in 1927 and 1929). We’re turning back the clock to when it was known as the Andy Williams San Diego Open and the amazing final round comeback of Pete Brown in 1970.
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Pete Brown, First Black to Win on the PGA Tour, Wins Andy Williams San Diego Open
Jack Nicklaus came into the 1970 Andy Williams San Diego Open riding a huge wave of confidence. He closed out the Crosby with a seven-under-par 65 to finish one stroke back of the winner Bert Yancy. With the second-place finish, Nicklaus joined Arnold Palmer and Billy Casper as golf’s only players to win over a million dollars.
His last five starts resulted in a record of two firsts, two seconds and a sixth to give him the best record on the tour. He had a 69.45 stroke average and had already won $82,916 for the year.
“I’d like to make it $100,000 in six tournaments,” Nicklaus said, which meant he would have to win in San Diego.
Conditions were perfect, typical for San Diego, with no wind, a clear sky and temperatures in the low 70s. In the first round, Nicklaus scorched Torrey Pines with a seven under 65 resulting in a one-stroke lead over Tony Jacklin.
Pete Brown opened with a 76 putting him 11-strokes behind Nicklaus. Brown was the first African American to win on the PGA Tour when he captured the Waco Turner Open in Buryneyville, Oklahoma in 1964. Later that year, he became the first Black to play in a PGA Championship.
Brown shot a 67 in the second round to make the cut by three strokes. He was now 10-strokes behind the co-leaders; Nicklaus and Jacklin. The weather remained perfect on Saturday for the third round, but both Jacklin and Nicklaus struggled. Nicklaus was able to recover from a poor start to shoot a two-under par 70 while Jacklin, who enjoyed a four-stroke lead at one point, double bogied the 10th and 17th holes and carded a one-under par 71. Nicklaus held a one-stroke lead.
Pete Brown, playing “under the radar”, shot a five-under par 67 and sat seven shots back of Nicklaus. Brown was playing great and looked forward to Sunday’s final round. With his confidence soaring, the long-hitting Brown began to chase down the leaders in the final round. His goal in the final round was to shoot a good score, move up the leader board and win a nice check.
“I didn’t think I had a chance to win,” Brown admitted to reporters later. “You just don’t make up seven strokes with people like Jacklin, and Nicklaus, in front of you.”
He played brilliantly, with five birdies on the front nine for a total of 31. On the back nine, he made birdies at 10, 12 and 13 taking the lead by two. He bogied the 15th and then he reached the final hole, a par 5, in two shots. Birdie the hole and he would post a 64. He missed his eagle putt, leaving himself a four-foot birdie putt. He then missed that one, too, and settled for a 65.
“I choked,” Brown told reporters after the round.
He now waited to see how Jacklin, and Nicklaus, would finish and whether they would be able to beat, or match, his clubhouse lead. Playing together, both would need birdies on the final hole to tie Brown. Nicklaus missed the green in two and then chipped up to four feet from the cup.
Jacklin hit the green in two, just 12 feet from the hole. He missed his eagle putt leaving just a tap-in for his birdie and a tie with Brown. Nicklaus missed his four-foot birdie putt and would have to settle for third place.
Brown and Jacklin headed out to the 15th hole to begin a sudden death playoff. Jacklin’s drive missed the fairway and then he hit a tree with his second shot before finally getting on the green laying three. Brown put his second shot on the fringe of the green and calmly putted up to 18-inches from the hole. He marked his ball and watched as Jacklin missed his par putt. Brown then stroked in his short putt for the victory.
It was a stunning come from behind win for Brown, and he did it in front of a supportive crowd which wasn’t always the case. Brown, like Charles Sifford and the other Black players on tour, had to endure racism from galleries, especially in the South. In San Diego, he was the golfer who came from behind to beat two of the game’s top players, both in their prime.
Pete Brown (l) and Andy Williams (r) during the award ceremony of the 1970 Andy Williams San Diego Open.
Check out the bonus fact(s) below for more on the 1970 Andy Williams San Diego Open.
The playlist this week is a best of 1970. Listen HERE.
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March 14, 1929 - January 19, 1922
Bob Goalby, best known for winning the 1968 Masters when he was declared the winner after Roberto De Vicenzo incorrectly signed for a score one stroke higher than he shot, passed away at his home in Belleville, IL. He chose to spend his last hours around his family.
Although best known for the controversial win at the Masters, Goalby was also instrumental in helping the players break away from the PGA of America to form the PGA TOUR and he helped establish what became the PGA Senior Tour (now the Champions Tour).
The subhead above says “March 14, 1929 - January 19, 1922” but it isn’t about those dates — it’s all about the dash in between. That’s where his life was led. RIP Bob Goalby.
Tour Backspin Quiz | Guess The Clubhouse & Logo
Do you know what club this clubhouse served? We’re adding the logo in hopes that it helps.
Pete Brown was sponsored on tour by Jim Brown, the retired NFL star. Even though the golfer hadn’t won much money since his Waco Turner victory, Jim Brown had unwavering faith in his man. Brown (the golfer) had made only $20,000 on the tour in 1969 and had to Monday qualify to get into the Andy Williams San Diego Open. With his victory, he earned an exemption into the remaining events of 1970.
His victory did not earn him an invitation to the Masters, just as Sifford was not extended invitations for his victories in 1967 and ’69. The rules for extending invitations to the Masters were changed after Brown won in 1964 at the Waco Turner Open. The obvious intent of changing the rules was to keep a Black man out of the tournament. Lee Elder would finally break the color barrier at the Masters five years later in 1975.
In 2011, Brown was suffering from congestive heart failure and had survived 11 strokes. Jim Dent urged his friend to move to Augusta, Georgia and then helped support Brown up until Brown’s death in April of 2015.
Bonus Story II
Tony Jacklin returned to England at the conclusion of the Andy Williams San Diego Open. He was scheduled to receive the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth in recognition of winning the 1969 Open Championship.
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Tour Backspin Quiz Answer:
Philadelphia Cricket Club, Philadelphia, PA
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